Paul Sykes admits there’ll be no shortage of emotion on his part when he steps out at The Tetley’s Stadium for his Testimonial match against Bradford Bulls.
The match against Sykes’ first employers as a professional player will provide an opportunity for those in attendance, and the wider Rugby League family, to reflect on the former England and Great Britain international’s fantastic career.
“I first got into Rugby League due to my uncle,” he explained.
“I was five years old at the time, which seems a long time ago now, and my uncle used to take me to the park, and we’d spend hours there.
“He taught me the positions and how to play the game, and since then I haven’t looked back.
“As a young lad, I just used to have a rugby ball in my hand all the time; it’s all I ever wanted to do growing up, and so I took that rugby ball everywhere with me.
“I kept at it, and worked hard, and then I eventually got the chance to sign for Bradford.
“When I first signed for Bradford I was really excited. I wouldn’t say I was nervous; it was more the fact that I wanted to get on with it.
“They were a massive club at the time, winning just about everything you can in the game, and I was grateful to just be involved in that club at that time to be honest.
“I made my debut quite young, I was only 17 at the time, and for me to achieve that so early is something special and a big achievement for me.
“Once you make that debut and get a taste of it. you just want more of it, you get really hungry for it.
“Robbie Paul was a big personality at Bradford at the time and he really helped me in the early days,” Sykes added.
“We used to go to training together, which was great.
“It was a special team at that time and everyone helped me out, they all gave me various tips at one time or another, which I was grateful for.
“I looked up to all the players, they were a champion team, and so when you trained with them, that drove you on and you wanted to impress them.”
After laying down an early marker with the Bulls, Sykes was handed the opportunity to explore other possibilities in the game, and made the decision to move down to London.
“Brian Noble sat me and Rob Parker down and said that there had been interest from down south, and that London would like to take us on loan.
“We took that chance, where we knew we were going to be playing regular first team rugby.
“We moved down there and we got a house together, and, though Rob went back to Bradford quite quickly and got into the first team there, I stayed down in London.
“I loved every minute of it, and it changed my life, really.
“The lifestyle was different and it was such a big thing for me at the time, living so far away from home on my own at such a young age.
“Everyone was really close together as a club and all the boys used to spend a lot of time with one another away from the club.
“I have a lot of good memories from my time at London.”
Read part two of Paul’s story tomorrow on dewsburyrams.co.uk